The Forgotten Master-Gū Hóngmíng

In the modern history of China, there was such an eccentric man who was born in southeast Asia, grew up in the west and yet was deeply rooted in the eastern soil; who was well versed in several western languages, won thirteen doctorate degrees and at the same time was most enthusiastic about introducing Chinese culture and Confucian classics to the west; who believed firmly that the Chinese nation would stand steadfastly in the world and that the Chinese culture would salve the world while his compatriots were trying to fortify their homeland by using western firearms and cannons; who loved China so deeply, yet could hardly find a mortise in the society for him to join; who was so profoundly a learned man, yet a lonely man; who had been upholding China’s sovereignty and dignity, yet was often bemocked at and vilified by his own countrymen; who was so good at scolding, and he gave diatribes to foreigners in foreign languages and to his countrymen in Chinese, his diatribes became fulminations with people of high positions such as Lǐ Hóngzhāng, Yuán Shìkǎi and the most powerful Empress Dowager, his wife, concubine and entertaining girls were the only exceptions; who always went against social tides by giving lectures in Confucianism while everyone was engaged in westernization, by supporting autocracy while everyone was calling for democracy, by practicing polygamy while everyone was trying to emancipate women and by putting on his long gowns and kept his braid while everyone was in western suits; who was being cold-shouldered and treated like a fossil and queer fish at home while enjoying high repute abroad as an orient sage and whose books were textbook in European and American universities, and who was a model students of Thomas Carlyle and Mathew Arnold, and a friend of such men of letters as Leo Tolstoy and Tagore, and who was regarded as a spokesman of orient culture and an envoy between western and orient cultures. This is none other than Gū Hóngmíng.

A Brief Biography

He was born on July 19, 1856 into a Chinese family at Penang, Malaysia. The family was originally from Tóngān County in Fújiàn Province. So, according to Fújiàn dialect, his name was spelt as Koh Hong-beng. His name was spelt as Ku Hwng-ming in Wade-Giles Romanization, after he came to China. The spelling of his name in the title is done in the standard Chinese phonetic alphabet. His given name was Tomson. His other names include Amoy Ku (because Tóngān County was part of Amoy), Ku Hung-Ming and Hong Beng Bao. His pen names in Chinese include “Reader of the Book of Changes” (读易人), “Man from All Directions” (东西南北人) and rambler (逍遥人). His father was Gū Zǐyún, a manager of a rubber plantation or the Glugor Estate, also an assistant of Forbes Scott Brown, a priest of the place, who became the foster father of Gū Hóngmíng later. His mother was a westerner. We could not find out what her name and nationality was, unfortunately. Aside from his birth place, he also lived briefly in Hong Kong, Honolulu and Amoy (Xiàmén in “pinyin”). It was said that while he was in Amoy, he attended a missionary school for sometime there. In 1867 when he was ten years old, he went to the United Kingdom to study with his foster father Mr. Brown. He told Hú Shì that before they left for Europe, his father asked him not to join the Christian church and not to cut his braid. So, all his life, he kept his braid in order to follow his father’s instructions and tried to put up with insults for having a braid on. Even though his father had been working with British people, he tried to bring up the little Gū in Chinese culture. He still remembered how his father was helping him to recite “The Great Mercy Mantra”, a Buddhist chant when he was very small. He then went into a Scottish public school, and soon after he joined a grammar school there and laid a solid foundation in Latin, Greek and classic British literature.

He went to Germany with Mr. Brown in 1870 when he was fourteen and began to study German by way of reading “Faust”, he also spent some time on Shakespeare, mathematics and other natural sciences. He attended the University of Berlin, from where he acquired a PHD and Universitaet Leipzig, from which he acquired a degree in civil engineering. He returned to the UK in 1873 and leaned philosophy at the Oxford, and then he moved to the University of Edinburgh and became a student of the famous historian and writer Thomas Carlyle, while there, he pursued studies in Latin, Greek, Mathematics, metaphysics, moral philosophy and natural philosophy and rhetoric. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a master’s degree in literature in April, 1877. He then went to France and studied law and politics at the University of Paris, while there, an aging professor, a friend of Mr. Carlyle, exposed him to ‘The Book of Change” by saying that it was the most valuable classic, even though only a tiny part in pieces was available in German, it still shone with brilliance, and that he should study it in real earnest when he return to China. These words deeply impressed the young Gū, and that’s why he gave himself a pen name of “Reader of the Book of Change”. He returned to Penang in 1878. Soon afterwards, he was sent to work in the office of Colonial Secretary in Singapore for three years. While in Singapore, a meeting with Mǎ Jiànzhōng in 1879 changed totally the course of his life.

Mǎ Jiànzhōng, his name is written in Chinese as 馬建忠; it is pronounced as in Chinese romanization: Mǎ Jiànzhōng; it is pronounced in Wade–Giles: Ma Chien-chung; he was also known as Ma Kié-Tchong in French (1845 - 1900) was a Chinese official and scholar during the Qīng Dynasty. Mǎ was born in Dāntú(丹徒), Jiāngsū province to a prominent Chinese Catholic family. After studies at a French Catholic school in Shanghai—College of St. Ignace, Mǎ went to France in 1876 to study international law. He became the first Chinese to obtain a baccalauréat and in 1879 he obtained a diploma in law (licence de droit) from ?cole Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris. Following his return to China in 1880, Mǎ became a member of Lǐ Hóngzhāng's secretariat, where Mǎ's knowledge of international law became a useful asset. Mǎ is the author of Mashi Wentong (馬氏文通 "Mister Mǎ on How to Write Smoothly"), the first textbook of Chinese grammar written by a Chinese (there were already several grammars written by Westerners), published in 1898. When Gū was studying in France, he heard of the name of Mǎ. So, when he learned Ma was transiting in Singapore on his way home from India, he went to the Strand Hotel to call on Mǎ. They talked for three consecutive days. Gū was really impressed with Mǎ’s knowledge on Chinese traditional culture. Through the discussions with Mǎ, Gū realized how deep and profound Chinese culture was. Mǎ also told him that a person like him would be most needed in China. When Gū later was referring to this meeting, he said, “The meeting with Mǎ Jiànzhōng in Singapore was one of the most important experiences in my life, because it was Mǎ who changed me into a true Chinaman. Even though I had been back from Europe for three years, I hadn’t really got into the depth of Chinese culture and thoughts. I was still carrying myself as a fake foreigner.” (From: “Ku Hungming” by Wēn Yuánníng) Three days after the meeting with Mǎ, Gū handed in his letter of resignation to the office of Colonial Secretary. In between 1881-1882, Gū was hired as an interpreter for a British exploration team, which was going to Mandalay, Burma via Guǎngzhōu. He thought he could appreciate the beautiful mountains and rivers of China, yet when he got to Yúnnán, he found it was too difficult to scale the mountains and conditions were terrible. So, he gave up the plan and moved to Hong Kong. He also toured Xiàmén (Amoy) and Shànghǎi, and in Shànghǎi, he sat at the classes of “Analects of Confucius” and “Mencius” taught by private teachers, which amazed and inspired him for more learning. In 1883 he published an anonymous article on “North China Daily News” in Shànghǎi entitled “Chinese Scholarship”, in which he criticized the mistakes in western Sinology, he also pointed out the impacts western Sinology had in the society. This article was, as a matter of fact, an embryonic form of his studies.

On one of his trips between Shànghǎi and Hong Kong, Gū came across with a person named Yáng Rǔshù (杨汝澍), who was an assistant of Zhāng Zhīdòng (张之洞), the Governor of Guǎngdōng and Guǎngxī Provinces at the time. Nicknamed Marshall Zhāng of Fragrance, he was born at the Nánpí County, Héběi Province in 1837 and died in the year 1909. He was the forerunner of China’s higher learning normal education, he set up China’s first nursery school, he was also the founder of China’s heavy industry,and he was most active in pushing the westernization of China. When Yáng found that Gū was so good at several foreign languages, he recommended Gū to Marshall Zhāng. So, Gū came to work at Zhāng’s office in charge of documents in foreign languages, tax and administrative matters. He was Zhāng’s entourage when they were invited to the Mitsui Bussan Corporation in Shànghǎi for a talk with the visiting Okasika Mo (冈鹿门). Influenced and guided by Zhāng Zhīdòng and a few noted scholars, Gū started in 1885 penetrating studies of Chinese classics, histories, writings by masters and collections of literature. When German officers were hired to teach at the Marine Corps founded by Marshall Zhāng in Guǎngdōng, Gū succeeded in persuading the officers to kneel half way down in greeting others. In 1888, Gū once discussed sinology with Ernest Faber and Sir Chaloner Alabaster, both Gū and Sir Chaloner expressed dissatisfaction with James Legge’s work “Chinese Classics”, and Sir Chaloner encouraged Gū to do translations of Chinese classics. From that time on, Gū set his hands on translating “Analects of Confucius”. After Zhāng was appointed Governor of both Húběi and Guǎngdōng, Gū followed him and moved to Húběi in 1889. In 1891, the prince of Russia came to visit Hubei together with his relatives and a prince of Greece. Zhāng Zhīdòng called on him and gave a banquet in his honor, during which Gū was interpreting in Russian, French and Greek. Both princes were very impressed with his talent in languages and gave him a gold watch to show their appreciation. In the same year, Gū wrote articles in English and published on The North China Daily News (字林西报) to expose the crimes (in a few cases trading of babies) committed by foreign missionaries and refuted their quibbles. Abstract of his articles was carried on Times in the UK, which aroused sympathy among the British people towards China and his name began to be noticed in the west. 1895 saw the failure of China in the Sino-Japanese war and also the petition for reform signed by over one thousand candidates from localities to the final examination at the capital. Gū didn’t really support the reform and he thought China should stick to her own social order and the Confucian traditions. Yet, Zhāng was more inclined to the viewpoints of reformers headed by Kāng Yǒuwéi and Liáng Qǐchāo, and he asked Gū to give him more information of social systems in the west. So, in 1896, Gū wrote quite a number of articles about social systems and parliaments in the west. However, his articles focused more on the drawbacks of western systems, and apparently, he was trying to exert some conservative influence on Zhāng. These articles might have made some influence when Zhāng openly denounced the reform in April, 1898 in his article “A Plea for Learning” (劝学篇), in which he put forward his famous proposition: “new learning should serve the purpose of usage while old learning still remains the foundation (旧学为体,新学为用)”. In June the reform started and ended in failure in September, the reform lasted only for a hundred days. In the same year, Gū finished his translation of “Analects of Confucius” and had it published in the title of “The Discourses and Saying of Confucius”. Thus, he became the first Chinese who translated China’s classics for the readership of the west and became the forerunner in rendering Chinese into English in the history of Chinese culture. In the same year, the former Japanese Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi came to Wǔchāng to meet with Zhāng, Gū gave the visitor a copy of his translation of the work of Confucius and voiced dissatisfaction of the visitor’s ridicule on Confucius some time ago. In 1899, the “Yìhétuán” or Boxer’s Uprising took place and the uprising troops marched into Běijīng and Tiānjīn and killed some foreigners in May and June of 1900, while the eight powers, namely the UK, Germany, Russia, France, the United States, Japan, Italy and Austria formed an army of over 2,000 soldiers and began their attack of Běijīng and Tiānjīn. Gu went to Shanghai with Zhang to assist him in the talks with the British Consulate General about the uprising. At the same time, Gū wrote a series of articles in English, published them on “Japan Mail” in Yokohama and “The North China Daily News (字林西报)” in Shànghǎi to analyze the cause of the uprising and to castigate the aggression of the eight powers. The humiliating Treaty of 1901 was concluded, Gū was directly or indirectly involved in the talks. He gathered his articles of this period and published it in Shànghǎi with the tile of “Papers from a Viceroy’s Yamen”. Gū imitated the verse in a song sang at the party to celebrate the birthday of the Empress Dowager given by Zhāng: “The long life of the Emperor was at a cost of money of the common people and the long life of the Empress will bring sufferings to the people.” Such words roused a commotion among guests and found their way very quickly among common people. In 1904, a war between Russia and Japan broke out on the soil of China. Gū wrote a number of articles to criticize the war, for instance, “Et Nune Reges Intellegite: The Moral Cause of the Russo-Japanese War” was published on the “Japanese Post”. In the same year, his translation of another Confucian classic—“中庸”, which he rendered as “The Conduct of Life” began to appear in instalments on the Japanese paper. In 1905, Gū was appointed the Chief on the Chinese side for the dredging up work of the Huángpǔ River, and he occupied that position for three years. In March, 1906, he sent to Leo Tolstoy “The Moral Cause of the Russo-Japanese War” and “Paper from a Viceroy’s Yamen”; Tolstoy returned with a copy of his own work in an English edition. In October, Tolstoy sent Gū a long letter. The entire translation of “The Conduct of Life” was published in Shànghǎi, and the title was changed to “The Universal Order or Conduct of Life”. He also finished translating another Confucian classic—“The Great Learning or Higher Education”, and he tried to have it published in Qīngdǎo in small quantities. In October, he sent to Tolstoy both works of his translation. In 1907, Gū went to Běijīng with Zhāng, who was promoted as a Grand Minister of the State. In 1908, Gū was appointed an assistant department head at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His translation “The Universal Order or Conduct of Life” was included into a series on “Eastern Wisdom” and got published in London. In August 1909, Gū sent a telegram to Tolstoy to wish him happy 90th birthday on behalf of China’s arts and literature circle. Zhāng Zhīdòng passed away in 1909, and in February the next year, Gū wrote “The Story of a Chinese Oxford Movement” in memory of Zhāng. In autumn the same year, he wrote “What I Experienced in Zhāng’s Office” in Chinese, he later rendered it into English, which was published in the quarterly of the North China chapter of the Royal Asian Society. In the same year, he resigned from the position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and became the Dean at the Shànghǎi Nányáng Public School, which is the former body of Shànghǎi Jiāotōng University of today. After “The 1911 Revolution broke out in October 1911, Gū wrote a letter to the North China Daily News” opposing the revolution. The letter enraged many students, who one day stopped him on the road and asked him why he opposed the revolution. Gū then resigned from the school. The famous German sinologist and missionary Richard Wilhelm rendered into Germany two of Gū’s articles, namely “Paper from a Viceroy’s Yamen” and “The Story of a Chinese Oxford Movement”, they were published in Germany and welcomed by Neo-Kantists, and were put on the list of “must-read” at the philosophy department of Universitaet Goettingen.

Gū left Shànghǎi in 1912 and lived for a short while in Qīngdǎo. He was hired as an interpreter for 5 foreign banks in Běijīng in 1913. He was a nominee for Nobel Literature prize for his translation of “The Universal Order”, yet the Indian poet Tagore won the prize. In 1914, the First World War broke out, Gū gave a number of talks in English in Běijīng. In 1915, he gathered these talks in a book entitled “The Spirit of the Chinese People”. In 1916, a German person—Oscar A. H. Schmitz translated this book into Germany. In 1917, a Danish critique Georg Brandes published an article to comment on Gū Hóngmíng. In March, 1917, Gū wrote an article “Distinguishing Righteousness and Interest” (义利辨in Chinese) to voice his objection to China’s participation in the First World War. In July, Gū took part in the notorious farce of restoring the rule of the Qīng, the restoration lasted only for 12 days. In the same year, the President of Běijīng University Cài Yuánpéi (蔡元培) invited him to teach British classic literature as a professor, he assumed the opportunity of teaching to disseminate Confucian thinking and values in the classes and opposed the New Cultural Movement led by Chén Dúxiù and Hú Shì. In 1919, Gū wrote a lot articles in opposition to the May 4th Movement, he also inveighed against the students, who, in turn, seriously questioned him. On June 5, Cài Yuánpéi resigned from the position of the presidency, and soon Gū Hóngmíng also resigned from his professorship. He published a long essay in the “New York Times”—“The Uncivilized United States”, which occupied the whole of the first page and in which he said that aside from the “Annabelle Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe, there was no good poems in the United States. On July 11 of the same year, he voiced his opposition to the abolition of classical style of writing Chinese in his article “Against the Chinese Literary Revolution” on “Millard’s Review of the Far East”, which was printed in Shànghǎi, on August 16, his essay “Returned Student and Literary Revolution, Literacy and Education” was carried on the same review. Hú Shì wrote on the 33rd issue of “Weekly Review” to criticize Gū’s viewpoints. In September, Cài resumed his presidency in Beijing University and Gū also resumed his professorship. In 1921, the famous British writer William Somerset Maugham visited Gū during one of his two trips to China, he featured his meeting with Gū in his travel notes “On a Chinese Screen”. In the same year, Gū was interviewed by a promising young Japanese writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa (芥川龙之介). In 1924, the visiting Indian poet Tagore met with Gū for discussions on orient culture and religion. In September 1924, he visited Korea, and then he gave lectures in English in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Hamamatsu. In November 1924, he accepted an invitation from his cousin in Taiwan and made a lecture tour there. H. Nelson in Germany put Gū’s essays and speaking notes together and published a book entitled “Vox Clamantis”. (“冤诉之音”或可译为”呐喊”) In April 1925, he went to Japan again for more lecture tours. The French edition of “The Spirit of the Chinese People” was published in 1927 in Paris. On April 30, 1928, Gū died of illness in Běijīng.

Gu’s Contributions

A. He set a precedent and example for translating China’s classics.

Gū was the first Chinese scholar who translated three of the Four Books, namely “Discourses and Sayings of Confucius”, “The Universal Order or the Conduct of Life” and “The Higher Education” (They are 《论语》、《中庸》and《大学》in Chinese.)

We have to point out that before he set his pen for translation, there were already quite a number of translated works of Chinese classics available. One reason that urged him to translate was that he was not satisfied with the then existing translations, and he was even critical of those translations. Some scholars thought why Gū translated the three books was because he wanted to show off China’s treasures in academics. I don’t challenge this point of view, but I do think the deeper reason was his love of and firm belief in Chinese traditional thinking.

Let us not to forget that when he settled down in China, he was already thirty years of age, and his grasp of Chinese language and classics was no better than those foreign sinologists as James Legge, Frederic H. Balfour and Ernst Faber. As a matter of fact, when he began his career in Zhāng’s office, he was treated like a “foreign hairy man” because of his poor Chinese. None of his colleagues bothered to teach him Chinese, and his employer Mr. Zhāng Zhīdòng himself had to take up the teaching role and they began with reading “Lún Yǔ—Analects of Confucius” with an aid of the “Kāngxī Dictionary” . By remembering by heart the characters, Gū ended up by knowing more characters than ordinary scholars in China. Gū often said himself that he spent twenty years on learning the Chinese language and classics. A person who stimulated Gū for furthering his studies was Mr. Shěn Zēngzhí who came to celebrate Zhāng’s birthday. Yet, at the party, Shěn didn’t even say a word with Gū. Gū asked him why and was told: I can understand whatever you said, but you have to read more books for twenty years before you can understand what I say. That remark spurred him on exploring the secretes in the Four Books and Five Classics, and after 20 years of painstaking study, he did accomplished a great deal. He used to say that he was the Chinese who spent 20 years to lean about Chinese matters. So, 20 years later, Mr. Shěn came again to celebrate Zhāng’s birthday, Gū asked his assistant to move many books to the reception hall, Shěn asked him why he was doing that, and he replied: I wish to know which book you can recite and I can not. Which book you have fully mastered and I haven’t. Hearing this, Shěn said mildly to Gū: I know you have learned quite a lot. You see, I am getting on in years and would soon leave this stage, but you have just come onto the stage. We place on your shoulder the burden of developing Chinese culture now. There is no other suitable person to do so, because some are at home with China studies but not foreign studies while others are at home with foreign studies but not with China studies. It was said that Gū could easily recite any sentence in the Four Books. In his conversation and talks, he often quoted from these classics. Gū compared these classics to the Bible in the west in the “Preface” to “The Spirit of the Chinese People”: “But the Chinese Bible—the Five Canons and Four Books in China, the plan of civilization which Confucius saved for us the Chinese nation, teaches us Chinese also to love righteousness; to be righteous men; to do right, but it adds: ‘Love righteousness, be righteous men, do right—but with good taste.’” In here, Gū gave a very important inference: the Five Canons and Four Books constitute the Chinese Bible, that is to say, the Five Canons and Four Books provide some universal principles for us to follow, and that the passage of time can not take away their brilliance. As a member of the Chinese nation, at any given time, his/her duty is to take over these universal principles, practice them and pass them down to our next generation. It is absolutely absurd for a responsible person of one Confucius Institute to say not long ago that they don’t teach the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius. The person who said so had no understanding of what the core of Chinese culture is. The fact that such a shallow person is put at such an important position lead us to doubt what the mission of a Confucius Institute is, and if the name of such an institute should be changed to something else. China today lacks a brigade of scholars like Professor Gū Hóngmíng who could so readily and eloquently disseminate knowledge of traditional Chinese thinking. Gū has had only a few followers, unfortunately. It is a wrong decision to ask foreign scholars to translate important books of Chinese academics, unless the mastery of Chinese language and culture of those chosen scholars are no less sound than Gū Hóngmíng.

B. He was the first to make an all-round comparison between Chinese and western cultures.

The first thing Gū did in this respect was to look at what type of human beings a civilization has produced, and he thought that would show “the essence, the personality, so to speak, the soul of that civilization.” Gū then made very bold conclusions by saying, “The American people, I may be permitted to say here, find it difficult to understand the real Chinaman and the Chinese civilization, because the American people, as a rule, are broad, simple, but not deep. The English cannot understand the real Chinaman and Chinese civilization because the English, as a rule, are deep, simple, but not broad. The Germans again cannot understand the real Chinaman and the Chinese civilization because the Germans, especially the educated Germans, as a rule, are deep, broad, but not simple.” This may sound as a biased view, but the emphasis in saying so was that “It will be seen from what I have said above that the American people if they will study the Chinese civilization, will get depth; the English, broadness; and the Germans, simplicity; and all of them, Americans, English and Germans by the study of the Chinese civilization, of Chinese books and literature, will get a quality of mind which, I take the liberty of saying here that it seems to me, they all of them, as a rule, have not to a preeminent degree, namely, delicacy.”

Those who have been in China or been in contact with Chinese would agree to what Gū described as Chinese or a true Chinaman: “Now the first thing, I think, which will strike you in the old Chinese type of humanity is that there is nothing wild, savage or ferocious in him. Using a term which is applied to animals, we may say of the real Chinaman that he is a domesticated creature. Take a man of the lowest class of the population in China and I think, you will agree with me that there is less of animality in him, less of the wild animal, of what the Germans call Rohheit, than you will find in a man of the same class in a European society. In fact, the one word, it seems to me, which will sum up the impression which the Chinese type of humanity makes upon you is the English word ‘gentle’. By gentleness I do not mean softness of nature or weak submissiveness. ‘The docility of the Chinese’, says the late Dr. D. J. MacGowan, ‘is not the docility of a broken-hearted, emasculated people.’ But by the word ‘gentle’ I mean absence of hardness, harshness, roughness, or violence, in fact of anything which jars upon you. There is in the true Chinese type of humanity an air, so to speak, of a quiet, sober, chastened mellowness, such as you find in a piece of well-tempered metal. Indeed the very physical and moral imperfections of a real Chinaman are, if not redeemed, at least softened by this quality of gentleness in him. The real Chinaman may be coarse, but there is no grossness in his coarseness. The real Chinaman may be ugly, but there is no hideousness in his ugliness. The real Chinaman may be vulgar, but there in so aggressiveness, no blatancy in his vulgarity. The real Chinaman may be stupid, but there is no absurdity in his stupidity. The real Chinaman may be cunning, but there is no deep malignity in his cunning. In fact what I want to say is, that even in the faults and blemishes of body, mind and character of the real Chinaman, there is nothing which revolts you…When you analyze this quality of inexpressible gentleness in the real Chinaman, you will find that it is the product of a combination of two things, namely, sympathy and intelligence.”

I wish to quote the following from Gū before we see how he compared the two cultures: “If you judge a civilization by the extent to which men of means living under that civilization can enjoy themselves, then the Chinese civilization is certainly a failure. But if you judge a civilization by the standard of strength and effectiveness of the sense of moral obligation in the nation living under that civilization, then I think I can show that the Chinese civilization even now is not a failure, but, on the contrary, a wonderful success.”

Gū gave the following differences in the two cultures:

a) The Chinese culture places more respect to the human being than the sky. At the initial stage of Chinese culture, people gave equal importance to both man and sky. The Confucian culture stressed harmony between man and nature. In the “Book of Changes”, which is the core of Chinese thinking, the sky, the men and the earth were given an equal footing, and men in the middle should play a central role. Gū held that Europeans didn’t really have an objective of life, while that of a Chinese was very clear, which is “to be filial at home and a good citizen outside home.” He thought importance attach to human relations is a correct life philosophy, and in the Chinese context, such philosophy would show what a proper life is for men. “Tao” would teach you how to live a man’s life, and you can attain “Tao” from reading the Five Canons and Four Books.

b) Before the influx of western culture, there had been no religion for the Chinese people. Gū didn’t think the Chinese people really cared about religion, and the monasteries and temples were venues for rites and ceremonies. This is how Gū commented on this: “Let me first of all tell you that there is, it seems to me, one great fundamental difference between the Chinese civilization and the civilization of modern Europe. Here let me quote an admirable saying of the famous living art critic, Mr. Bernard Berenson. Comparing European with Oriental art, Mr. Berenson says:--“Our European art has the fatal tendency to become science and we hardly possess a masterpiece which does not bear the marks of having been a battlefield for divided interests.” Now what I want to say of the European civilization is that it is, as Mr. Berenson says of European art, a battlefield for divided interests; a continuous warfare for the divided interests of science and art on the one hand, and of religion and philosophy on the other; in fact a terrible battlefield where the head and the heart—the soul and the intellect—come onto constant conflict. In the Chinese civilization, at least for the last 2,400 years, there is no such conflict. That, I say, is the one great fundamental difference between the Chinese civilization and that of modern Europe.

In other words, what I want to say is that in modern Europe, the people have a religion which satisfies their heart, but not their head, and a philosophy which satisfies their head but not their heart. Now let us look at China. Some people say that the Chinese have no religion. It is certainly true that in China even the mass of the people do not take seriously to religion. I mean religion in the European sense of the word. The temples, rites and ceremonies of Taoism and Buddhism in China are more objects of recreation than of edification; they touch the aesthetic sense, so to speak, of the Chinese people rather than their moral or religious sense; in fact, they appeal more to their imagination than to their heart or soul. But instead of saying that the Chinese have no religion, it is perhaps more correct to say that the Chinese do not want—do not feel the need of religion.

Now what is the explanation of this extraordinary fact that the Chinese people, even the mass of the population in China, do no feel the need of religion? It is thus given by the Englishman. Sir Robert K. Douglas, Professor of Chinese in the London University, in his study of Confucianism, says:--“Upwards of forty generations of Chinamen have been absolutely subjected to the dicta of one man. Being a Chinaman of Chinaman the teachings of Confucius were specially suited to the nature of those he taught. The Mongolian mind being eminently phlegmatic and unspeculative, naturally rebels against the idea of investigating matters beyond its experiences. With the idea of a future life still unawakened, a plain, matter-of-fact system of morality, such as that enunciated by Confucius, was sufficient for all the wants of the Chinese.”

That learned English professor is right, when he says that the Chinese people do not feel the need of religion, because they have the teachings of Confucius, but he is altogether wrong, when he asserts that the Chinese people do not feel the need of religion because the Mongolian mind is phlegmatic and unspeculative. In the first place religion is not a matter of speculation. Religion is a matter of feeling, of emotion; it is something which has to do with the human soul. The wild, savage man of Africa even, as soon as he emerges from a mere animal life and what is called the soul in him, is awakened,--feels the need of religion. Therefore although the Mongolian mind may be phlegmatic and unspeculative, the Mongolian Chinaman, who, I think it must be admitted, is a higher type of man than the wild man of Africa, also has a soul, and, having a soul, must feel the need of religion unless he has something which can take for him the place of religion.”

Gū firmly believed that Confucianism could take the place of religion for the Chinese people, and that schools in China were equal to churches in the west, and the role of a church could be played by a combination of schools, family teaching and ancestral temple of any given family. Gū pointed out the essence of Confucianism was “the only true, rational, permanent and absolute basis, not only of a State, but of all Society and civilization is this law of the gentleman, the sense of honour in man.” He also answered this question for us: “What is then the difference between Confucianism and a religion in the European sense of the word?” His answer was: “There is of course, the difference that the one has a supernatural origin and element in it, whereas the other has not. But besides this difference of supernatural and non-supernatural, there is also another difference between Confucianism and a religion in the European sense of the word such as Christianity and Buddhism, and it is this. A religion in the European sense of the word teaches a man to be a good man. But Confucianism does more than this; Confucianism teaches a man to be a good citizen. The Christian Catechism asks—“What is the chief end of a man?” But Confucian Catechism asks—“What is the chief end of a citizen?” of man, not in his individual life, but man in his relation with his fellowmen and in his relation to the State? The Christian answers the words of his Catechism by saying, ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God.’ The Confucian answers the words of his Catechism by saying: ‘The chief end of man is to live as a dutiful son and a good citizen.’ Tz ǖ Yu, a disciple of Confucius, is quoted in the Sayings and Discourses of Confucius, saying, ‘A wise man devotes his attention to the foundation of life—the chief end of man. When the foundation is laid, wisdom, religion will come. Now to live as a dutiful son and a good citizen, is not that the foundation—the chief end of man as a moral being?’ In short, a religion in the European sense of the word makes it its object to transform man into a perfect ideal man by himself, into a saint, a Buddha, an angel, whereas Confucianism limits itself to make man into a good citizen—to live as a dutiful son and a good citizen. In other words, a religion in the European sense of the word says,--‘If you want to have religion, you must be a saint, a Buddha, an angel;’ whereas Confucianism says, --‘If you live as a dutiful son and a good citizen, you have religion.’”

c) Chinese put righteousness before interests. The core of Confucian values is to attach importance to righteousness and belittle interests. Gū held that this is one of the main differences between Chinese and western cultures. He thought the west attached too much importance to material interests, which led to money worship, militarism and all these gave cause to the outbreak of the world war. As he said in “The Spirit of the Chinese People,” “People say German Militarism is the enemy and danger of the world today. But I say it is the selfishness and cowardice in all of us which is the real enemy of the world today: selfishness and cowardice in all of us, which, when combined, becomes Commercialism. It is this spirit of Commercialism, in all countries of the world, especially in Great Britain and America, which is the real enemy of the world today. It is, I say, this spirit of Commercialism in all of us and not Prussian Militarism which is the real, the greatest enemy of the world today. For it is this Commercialism, a combination of selfishness and cowardice which has created the Religion of the worship of the mob and it is this Religion of the worship of might in Germany, created the Germany Militarism which, as I said, finally brought on this war.” At the same time, the Chinese culture asks people to treat others with a human and kind heart, and to try to win over others by the force of “virtue”, not “interests” at every turn of opportunity.

d) Chinese people remember things by heart while westerns remember things by brain. When one uses his heart, there would be emotions involved, and what he sees is a general picture and his judgment is based on wholesomeness; while the brain of a westerner is used to cool rules and facts and not so much emotions.

C. He was the first critic of western sinology.

Gū criticized western sinology in the following articles: “John Smith in China”, “A Great Sinologue” and “Chinese Scholarship”. In these articles, Gū didn’t concentrate on specific issues, in stead, he stressed that western sinologists should base their studies of Chinese cultural matters on a “connected whole” and that they should have a thorough grasp of China’s history. Even though he mentioned over 20 sinologists, his criticism was directed mainly on Herbert Giles, James Legge, and Demetrius Boulger. To be objective, these sinologists have played an instrumental and crucial role in helping the west in understanding China and Chinese culture. We should not be surprised if their ultimate objective in introducing China and Chinese culture was to serve each’s duty of job, whether they are a missionary or a consulate. The fact they have done so much in their translations and writing could only show their love of China and Chinese culture. Some of them even ended their life in China. By saying the above, we are not trying to deny Gū’s criticism on them. On the contrary, China should know, by one way or another, what foreign scholars say about herself and her culture. Gū’s comments gave a healthy push to the development of sinology.

Herbert Giles (1845-1935) lived a long life and he produced and published over 25 major works about China, and in particular, he improved James Wade’s way of Romanizing pronunciation of Chinese characters, and their method had been used for over 100 years until the birth of Chinese Way of Romanization—“pinyin”. Despite his big name, Gū’s comments were relentless: “He can translate Chinese sentences, but he cannot interpret and understand Chinese thought.” “…But in all that Dr. Giles has written, there is not a single sentence which betrays the fact that Dr. Giles has conceived or even tried to conceive the Chinese literature as a connected whole.” “It is this want of philosophical insight in Dr. Giles which makes him so helpless in the arrangement of his materials in his books.”

Similarly, Gū also challenged the highly regarded James Legge by quoting two other sinologists’ comments: “Nevertheless, it must be confessed that the work does not altogether satisfy us, Mr. Balfour justly remarks that in translating these classics a great deal depends upon the terminology employed by the translator. Now we feel that the terminology employed by Dr. Legge is harsh, crude, inadequate, and in some places, almost unidiomatic. So far for the form. As to the matter, we will not hazard our own opinion, but will let the Rev. Mr. Faber of Canton speak for us. ‘Dr. Legge’s own notes on Mencius,’ he says, ‘show that Dr. Legge has not a philosophic understanding of his author.’”

He commented on Demetrius Boulger: “The so-called History of China, by Mr. Demetrius Boulger, published recently, is perhaps the worst history that could have been written of a civilized people like the Chinese. Such a history as Mr. Boulger has written might be tolerated if written of some such savage people as the Hottentots. The very fact that such a history of China could have been published serves only to show how very far from being perfect yet is the knowledge of Chinese among Europeans.”

Gū was deeply influenced by Goethe. He quoted Goethe at the beginning of “John Smith in China” thus: “The Philistine not only ignores all conditions of life which are not his own but he also demands that the rest of mankind should fashion its mode of existence after his own.” This sentence of Goethe voiced Gū’s own thought at the time: He despised those foreigners in China who ignored all conditions of life and who demanded China to fashion her existence after their own. There wasn’t really a John Smith, a John Smith was anyone who thought himself more superior than Chinese and who tried to influence Chinese with Anglo-Saxon ideals.

Unfortunately, after Gū there had been no real criticism on foreign sinology until November 1996 when National Research Centre of Overseas Sinology (中国海外汉学研究中心) was founded and a journal “International Sinology” (国际汉学)came into being, 1998 when the journal “World Sinology” (世界汉学)run by China Institute of Arts and China Institute of Culture and December 8, 2009 when the Study Base for International Sinologists at Běijīng University (北京大学国际汉学家研修基地) was founded and its journal “Newsletter for International China Studies” (国际汉学研究通讯) was launched off from the ground. The only problem, it seems, is that these journals are all in Chinese. The fact that sinology studies have been done in the west in western languages, of course, most sinologists speak or read Chinese, yet to ensure a true and smooth communication among Chinese institutions and foreign sinologist institutions, these Chinese journals should be presented in English, even better, if other western languages could also be used.

Before we move on, a few words about his personal life may be necessary. Gū had a wife, a concubine, a son and two daughters. His wife Shūgú, was from Guǎngdōng and a good house manager. She spent Gū’s salary in a well-planed way. Some people say Gū was afraid of Shūgú. But, we can see he was in deep love of her and mentioned her quite often in some of his writings. The concubine was Yoshida Sadako from Japan. His theory of polygamy was quite famous; he said a man is like a tea pot, which had to be surrounded by not one cup, but a few cups. It was said Gū’s theory was so influential that before Lù Xiǎomàn was married to Xū Zhìmó, she asked her husband to be not to treat her like a tea cup, but like a tooth brush, which is most exclusive. Gū used to say that Shūgú was his exaltation and the concubine was his soporific. The Chinese character for a concubine is written as “妾”, and the upper part means to stand, and the lower part means a “woman”, so a concubine is a “standing woman”. He said it was the selflessness in the Chinese woman that made “the concubinage in China not only possible, but also no Immoral…the concubinage in China does not mean having many wives. By Law in China, a man is allowed to have only one wife, but he may have as many handmaids or concubines as he likes. In Japanese a handmaid or concubine is called te-kaki, a hand rack or me-kaki an eye rack; --i.e. to say, a rack where to rest your hands or eyes on when you are tired. Now the feminine ideal in China, I said, is not an ideal for a man to spend his whole life in caressing and worshipping. The Chinese feminine ideal is, for a wife to live absolutely, selflessly for her husband…In fact it is the selflessness of the wife in China, her sense of duty, the duty of self sacrifice which allows a man in China to have handmaids or concubines.” His son’s name is Gū Shǒuyōng (辜守庸) whose elder son Gū Néngyǐ (辜能以) lived in Tāiwān and had four sons of his own, the name of Shǒuyōng’s younger son was Gū Yíngshāng (辜营商) who spent his life in Běijīng. The names of Gū’s two daughters were Zhēndōng (珍东) and Nàwā (娜娃). They were the only relatives at Gū’s funeral in Beijing. The two girls, like their father, spoke several languages, yet all became Buddhist nuns in Sūzhōu after their father’s death.

We should follow this pace-setter

While Gū was enjoying a much bigger name than any of his peers outside China, he had been brushed aside from the main stream of the society, unfairly, in China. If we compared him with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who also studied in the UK at almost the same time, who also tried to develop the traditional culture of his country and who was also castigated by the radicals of his country, yet, even though he was assassinated, he has been a hero and spiritual leader of his nation. Gū received no honor from his country whatsoever, and in the minds of those who know of him, he has been an eccentric “die-hard”. From the day the People’s Republic was founded to the 80s of last century, there was not even one article that mentioned Gū’s name. He was not given a footing in modern history of China, not even in the history of culture and the history of translation. He was completely forgotten. What was most unfair was his image in a recent feature film was that of a clown. The playwright, the director didn’t really know what kind of a person Gū was. The unfortunate fate of Gū was caused by a lack of understanding not only of him as a person, but also of China’s traditional culture, of which Gū devoted his life to safeguard. Let’s listen to the comments on Gū by Li Dazhao (李大钊),founder of the Chinese Communist Party and one of the leaders of the New Cultural Movement: “I think Chinese culture in her past 2,500 years and more only produced one Gū Hóngmīng, who has enabled us to feel proud and elated in the world in the 20th century.” Man of letters and professor of Běijīng University Mr. Wú Mì (吴宓) said, “Mr. Gū is the representative of Chinese culture, the only disseminator of China in the world today.” One of the tasks of China studies in today’s China is to restore a good name to Gū, and by doing so, we should adhere to the core value of Chinese classics as he did at his time. We should also bring up more scholars like him, one hundred if possible to promote China to the world. This is so badly needed. When we say a scholar like him, we mean the three qualities as:Utter devotion to China’s traditional culture, we may remember what he said himself in this respect: “Many of my foreign friends are amused at what they call my foolish and fanatic loyalty to the Manchu dynasty. But my loyalty is not merely a loyalty to the Imperial House under whose beneficent rule my father and my forefathers have lived, my loyalty in this case is a loyalty also to the religion of China, to the cause of the civilization of the Chinese race” ; true mastery of Chinese language, in particular, classic Chinese and proficiency in discussing major works in “classics, history, masters and collections” (经史子集);lastly proficiency in western culture and one or two western languages. Gū has set an example for us, we, and our posterity must follow him.